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An ongoing series of Exposition and "bite size" Related Themes
An ongoing series of Exposition and "bite size" Related Themes
Luke 16:1-13, they got it all wrong
Luke 16:1-13, they got it all wrong
March 28, 2019
One thing I've been guilty of, for the longest time, is looking for the quick answer to a difficult passage. The problem with that, of course, is then I typically end up with a few probable answers, but still have to sort them. I encountered this dilemma with Luke 16:1-13, the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward.
Don't get me entirely wrong... "answer surfing" is not my typical first response, but it certainly has become a noteworthy crutch in the "just Google it" age. I'd been spending a significant amount of time in the master's parables, over the course of many days, so when I got to this one I just thought I was too burnt out to grasp it. After searching out what the sages of today have to say about it, I realized it wasn't just me... it's obviously difficult... none of the prominent names out there were providing acceptable exposition, and some were WAY out there. I resorted to what should have been my initial method: study, prayer, meditation (thinking).
It is anything but my intention to stunt your own profitable growth in understanding via the methods mentioned above; however, I understand we are all at different points on the road and we all need to eat. As I said, I prayed, I studied, I thought. Here's what happened...
I began by contextualizing. But I couldn't go back one chapter, or even two... I had to go back three chapters and read from Luke 13:31 forward, but to contextualize that, I had to go to Luke 13:22, and to be sure, I went to 13:10. The parable in question was told on the same day as all the events from 13:31 onward. If one does not follow the day and order of events, it will be very difficult to rightly divide the Unrighteous Steward. In 13:10, he's in a random synagogue on Sabbath. In 13:22, he's traveling towards Jerusalem, (not today's Jerusalem), and 13:31 he is in some city on the way to Jerusalem. 14:1 puts him in the house of a chief Pharisee, and now we may read forward.
In the interest of efficiency, I will not walk through every parable getting to where we need to be, but I would like to point out something he was dealing with all day... the Pharisees. Unlike many in CI (Christian Identity... and I refer to myself this way not because I agree with many in CI, but because it initially meant Christians who'd become aware that we "Saxons, Celts, Germanics, and kindreds" are the descendants of Israel. It has, since, been infiltrated and perverted... what else is new?) I don't see the Pharisees as automatically being Edomite/Canaanite mamzers. Obviously, at least some of them were tribal Israelites, ie Paul or likely Nicodemus. At least some had to be sons of Israel, (specifically Judaites and Benjamites... Levites are still Temple stewards, not Pharisees). Pharisees, like Scribes (which should have been Levites alone), and Saducees were the shepherds... bad shepherds, but what's new in Israel, "Woe be unto the pastors (ROYM=shepherds) that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the YEUE" -Jer 23:1.
Pharisees were, at YEUShO'=Jesus' time, the majority faction in the halls of power. We will need to put out of our minds a couple of very bad CI, (and Evangelical), equivalents. One is, not all, in fact maybe very few if not zero, Pharisees were alien mamzers. This is an assumption. Paul, alone, is proof that the Pharisees were Judahites, as well as Steven's speech to the elders. The leaders of Judah, at this time, are not the provable equivalent of today's Rabbis. In fact, today's Rabbis are provable mamzers, counterfeits, who have no proof whatsoever of Judahite lineage. Stop automatically equating Pharisees of the master's day with Jewish Rabbis of our own. Secondly, stop equating the synagogue of the master's day with the synagogue of today... and for the same reason. Am I saying none of these positions of power were alien mamzers? No, I'm not. I am saying the aforementioned equivalents are logical fallacies. So, what would be today's equivalent of Pharisees?... Pastors, Ministers, Bishops, Reverends. And the equivalent of the synagogues?... Church buildings. Let's move on.
Luke 14:1, "And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day". So, he is invited to eat at a big "Sunday dinner" (I do know the difference between Sabbath and Sunday, tbh, its been the claims of the RCC, of changing the Sabbath, that has kept us Sabbathing on Saturday), en route to Jerusalem, at "John MacArthur's" house. (MacArthur was the first name to come to mind... I'll pick on someone else next time). And given it was a big name, like MacArthur, you can bet Phil Johnson, Al Mohler, Todd Friel, and Justin Peters were there... not to mention Paul Washer and John Piper, (for the conference). There were also lawyers there, which aught to be a good thing, but I'm assuming these lawyers were more twisters of the law than teachers thereof.
Our path to our target parable begins with YEUShO healing a man and asking the lawyers and Pharisees if its right to heal on Sabbath. They refused to respond. They may have already heard of the spectacle he'd made of the head of the synagogue who last challenged him on this point, (13:10-17). He then puts the same question to them as the synagogue ruler. They remain silent. Picture the entourage of his disciples: the poor, sinners, people who loved him, were fascinated with him, and would not be parted from him. He asks, with this whole crowd of people, (these lawyers and Pharisees would ignore in the streets), in tow, and they know they can't answer, or YEUE help them if one were insane enough to open his mouth. Everyone knew YEUE was with our master: the people knew, the Pharisees knew. I think the lawyers and Pharisees would have preferred to eat without him and his crowd: in quiet comfort: among one another: civilized company. But this chief Pharisee knew the people loved our master... and the people didn't much love the lawyers and Pharisees... see where this is going?
14:7-11... YEUShO begins by addressing them who were taking the best seats, (the closest to the head seat), as these would be considered more honorable places... close to the host: the chief Pharisee. You've seen this sort of thing. The church has its monthly pot-luck. Who sits at the table with the head pastor? The ones taking the best seats were?.... yes, the lawyers, Pharisees, and whichever other "important" men might be there. He's encouraging humility among the wealthy.
14:12-14... he tells the rich among them to invite the poor, the crippled, and blind to their feasts.
!4:15... a man who was seated, (likely a rich man), states, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God", to which YEUShO replies with the following...
14:12-24... the Banquet Parable. The ones making excuses to not attend are the Pharisees, the lawyers... the wealthy. He's speaking again to them. The lord of the parable is YEUE. The ones who take their place... those would be them who followed the master to this feast.
14:25-35... he turns to the multitudes with him and tells them, "count the cost". He is making a blanket statement here to all. "if you love anything more than me, you cannot be my disciple". "salt without flavor is worthless". This goes for the Pharisees also, who love money, and honors, and power. You can't love those things and be his disciple. Interesting, upon speaking these things, the sinners among them draw closer to him to hear more, (15:1)... I can only imagine the Pharisees and lawyers, (who know he's been speaking to and of them), remain where they are.
15:2... "And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."
15:3-32... three successive parables aimed right at the heart of these arrogant men: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Lost (Prodigal) Son. In each case, he illustrates the great importance of these "sinners" to himself and the Father. He makes it clear that the Father rejoices more over the finding, (repentance), of one of these "low-lifes" than the ever-presence of the haughty, (and well fed), Pharisee.
Now, by the time we get up to 16:1, who has he been mostly talking to or about? Yes, the Pharisees: the wealthy. In 16:1, it reads, "And he said also unto his disciples", and that's the first part that throws the reader. We sometimes forget who have been his chief subject so far. If we remember its been the wealthy at this feast, we'll be alright going in. Another mistake some might make here is assuming these characters to be the same archetypes as other parables. Not all archetypes are consistently symbolic of the very same things in every parable. This is the body of the parable:
There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely:
The chief issue here is that the steward has been accused by someone of "διασκορπίζων" = "being frivolous, scattering" his goods: being incompetent. This lord does not imprison him, nor remove him on the spot, but tells him he will no longer be steward and to provide accounting, but he leaves him with power of attorney. Doing this would seem frivolous on the part of the lord, unless it were deliberate, and when we witness the lord's reaction to what he does, it does seem as though his lord was testing him.
What is the resolve of the unrighteous steward? He hatches a very shrewd plan to save his own skin. He figures since he can't do manual labor and will not beg, he'll make life easier on those who were, up until now, beneath him, so that they will (in his mind) owe him, and thus take him in and be kind to him. There is nothing altruistic in his actions. He gathers together all his lord's debtors and goes about reducing their debts, and not in a "διασκορπίζων" manner, but shrewdly, according to commodity and amount. If he were being still frivolous, he'd cut all the debts in half. He doesn't do this. He is careful about it, but quick. He asks each one how much, and based on quantity and type, he then reduces accordingly. This variable reduction, based on commodity and amount, along with an assumption that he did not want to end up in prison as well, should tell us that his actions were not only shrewd by way of securing his future with these debtors, but also were within an acceptable debt reduction amount. POA or not, a lord could typically have anyone thrown into prison that he deemed to be stealing from him, so this steward was careful to reduce each debt individually.
Now we come to the part that confuses many: "And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely". Here is where many readers are expecting the lord to be even angrier, but he commends him. The reason so many are confused is that, for one, they misapply archetypes, (thinking this lord may be symbolizing YEUE, as in other parables), and they don't realize that debt reduction is used regularly by creditors to increase company value by encouraging the debtor to pay faster because they are now happier by being in less debt. They also tend to be more honest about whether or not they have the means to pay... don't forget, there's nothing new under the sun. If these debtors were disgruntled under too heavy a burden, the payments may be light or not the best of the product, and so on. This act will actually help debts to be paid faster, with higher quality commodities, by happier debtors. So, nothing he's done has "cheated" his lord, but I don't believe that is the main reason his lord commends him. He commends the very act and design of it that we all think is going to wind him up in greater trouble. What? Why?
"because he had done wisely", 16:8. "wisely" = φρονίμως G5430, (from G5429): used extensively for "wise", "to have wisdom". Sure, his motives were entirely selfish, but what he's commended for is the implementation of a very wise plan... the very opposite of what he was accused of. He had hatched a scheme which would secure himself, while simultaneously would relieve the debtors and secure faster and better quality of payment to the lord. The parable had, technically, ended at, "And the lord commended the unjust steward". "because he had done wisely", was YEUShO's commentary. Followed by...
"for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." or, my translation, "for the sons of this age have more sense and understanding in dealing with each other than the sons of light have in dealing with each other". Further translation... the unrighteous steward had more sense than the "righteous" Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers. How do I know that's what he meant and how he was applying it? Read his next statement: "And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." Now I ask you, is he speaking directly to his disciples or indirectly to the wealthy, who are in earshot and actually have the mammon of unrighteousness with which to carry out this good advice? So, what is he saying? He's telling those who have plenty that, first, its not theirs... they are only stewards of it, second, they should use it like the steward in the parable did... to alleviate the debtors (the poor, the weak, and the sinners... in the sense of their knowledge of scripture to preach them the pure word to bring them to repentance. They were also rich in their education concerning scripture). "for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." Get it? Do you see that very sort of behavior all over the "church" today? Yeah... me too. The next four verses follow a logical flow from there.
He that is faithful in that which is least (unrighteous mammon) is faithful also in much (truth, love): and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches (truth, wisdom, understanding)?
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's (all riches are owned by YEUE first), who shall give you that which is your own (eternal inheritance)?
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (if they love their money "mammon", power, and position, they cannot love YEUE)
These men, (Scribes, Pharisees, Lawyers), loved their wealth. Anyone who doubts that our master was indirectly speaking this to them, pay attention to the verse that follows: "And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him." 16:14.
I hope you now have a greater understanding, not only of this parable, but how our God "YEUE" and master "YEUShO" view wealth, power, and honors and our responsibility when we attain it. I watch the "pillars of the church"... men such as I used earlier in my example, who, (to my knowledge), have never taken any of our master's advice. They would heartily (often tearfully) witness that "Jesus is Lord" and affirm their allegiance to him in book after book, conference after conference, video upon video, but I wonder... would a one of them know a true prophet today or hear a word from his mouth, or are all of our shepherds too busy looking for the good seats at the master's banquet to hear a true prophet?